Once a small iron furnace community, the 2,983-acre Lake Hope State Park and the surrounding 26,824-acre Zaleski State Forest are dotted with remnants of the past. An old cemetery, an iron furnace, and hints of a ghost town still linger along the trails, thick with trees and wildlife. There are hiking trails, backpacking trails, and a 23-mile singletrack bike trail that was chosen as one of Ohio’s top mountain biking trails by readers of Mountain Bike Magazine. The Moonville Rail Trail runs through the park, providing an additional 16 miles of trail. There is also a dining lodge, nature center, 66 cottages, and over 180 camping sites. The scenic 120-acre lake provides opportunities to boat, fish, and swim.
Hope Furnace was built over a century ago to process iron ore from the surrounding region. The iron produced in Vinton County was the backbone of our growing nation. At the time, it was a thriving industry in the county, employing thousands to cut timber, mine, and tend the furnaces.
Though the roar of the iron furnaces no longer echoes through the hills of Vinton County, there are many reminders of days gone by, from abandoned railroad lines and mining tunnels to ghost towns. Situated at the heart of Ohio’s Hanging Rock iron region, Lake Hope State Park reflects the rich history of much of Southeastern Ohio. However, by around 1900 iron had been discovered elsewhere and Southern Ohio’s iron furnaces were shut down.
The Lake Hope Forest Park was created in 1937 as one of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s many Works Progress Administration projects. It became Lake Hope State Park in 1949.
Lake Hope State Park consists mainly of densely forested hills, valleys, and gorges surrounding a man-made lake. The area is filled with coal, iron ore, clay, and building stone. Much of the forest was cut to fuel the iron furnace during its operation, but the land is now covered in a beautiful second-growth forest. Many plants can be found throughout the forest, including some rare wildflowers. The beaver is the most popular animal that visitors enjoy spotting within the park, but deer and wild turkeys are common as well.
There are many activities for the whole family to enjoy at Lake Hope State Park and Zaleski State Forest. Boating is a great way to view the 120-acre lake and surrounding shore. Canoes, kayaks, and paddle boats can be rented at the lake’s boat house. Fishermen can find bluegill, crappie, largemouth bass, and catfish. Hunting is allowed within Zaleski State Forest. There is a 600-foot swimming beach complete with changing rooms, restrooms, and a concession stand. There are nine picnic areas with tables and grills throughout the park. There is one shelter house, which can be reserved through the ODNR Division of State Parks. The Lake Hope Lodge is a popular dining destination that specializes in traditional pit barbeque, featuring locally harvested meats and produce. There are seven hiking trails, eight biking trails, two backpack trails, and 33 miles of bridle trails. During the right conditions in winter, guests can go ice skating, sledding, cross-country skiing, and ice fishing. The Hope School House Interpretive Center provides exhibits and educational programs on the area’s history and culture. The nearby abandoned railway tunnel at Moonville is reputed to be haunted, and can be visited on foot or by horseback.